Colorado governor cuts 100 years from driver’s sentence

January 3, 2022

Chuck Robinson


Colorado’s governor on Dec. 30 reduced the 110-year sentence of truck driver Rogel Aguilera-Mederos to 10 years.

In his executive order, Gov. Jared Polis granted clemency and commuted his sentence. Aguilera-Mederos will be eligible for parole on Dec. 30, 2026. Before clemency was granted, his parole eligibility date was 2091.

Aguilera-Mederos was convicted in October of driving his tractor-trailer into stopped traffic on I-70 in the Denver area on April 25, 2019. He said his truck was traveling at 85 mph when his brakes failed. The truck crashed into the 28-vehicle traffic backup caused by a previous collision. Four men were killed.

He was charged with 42 counts and found guilty by a jury of 27 counts. He was sentenced on Dec. 13 to the mandatory minimum term set forth under state law. At the time of sentencing, the judge said he would have handed down a different sentence if given the latitude.

Aguilera-Mederos was a victim of a broken system, OOIDA Executive Vice President Lewie Pugh wrote shortly after the sentencing.

The commuted sentence was a much better outcome than the original sentence, Pugh said, but there is still a much bigger issue involved.

“We need to start some proactive regulations and legislation in the ways of training, parking and pay just to start with,” Pugh said. “The system is rigged for the driver to be left holding the bag even when they did everything they knew how to do. This could happen to any driver on any day, while carriers can continue to operate unchecked.”

Aguilera-Mederos had no criminal record before the crash and was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the wreck occurred.

Also on Thursday, Polis pardoned 1,351 people who had been convicted of possessing two ounces or less of marijuana.

Not blameless

In a letter addressed to Aguilera-Mederos, Polis said he was not blameless but the tragic result of his actions were not intentional. His sentence was “disproportionate compared with many other inmates in our criminal justice system who committed intentional, premeditated, or violent crimes.”

“The crimes you were convicted of are serious. Four individuals lost their lives and others were seriously injured because of your bad decisions. The families of these victims will never again have the chance to embrace their lost loved ones. This was a tragic event that affected many Coloradans,” Polis wrote. “Though your actions have caused immense pain, I am encouraged by your personal reflection and the commercial vehicle safety changes that were made in the wake of this tragedy to ensure this type of event never happens again.”

In court, prosecutors noted that Aguilera-Mederos had passed runaway truck ramps and other opportunities to avoid the collision. Despite that, District Attorney Alexis King had announced her office’s intention to seek a reduced sentence of 20 to 30 years. A resentencing hearing had been scheduled for Jan. 13.

Measures taken since the crash

Since the collision, Polis noted that the Colorado Department of Public Safety launched the
Mountain Rules program in 2019. The subscription-based in-cab alert system warns truck drivers of areas where brake failures could occur and alerts drivers of the locations of brake check and runaway truck ramps.

Polis also mentioned that the Colorado Department of Public Safety also had deployed new technology to measure and detect hot brakes along the I-70 corridor.

In addition, Polis said the 110-year “arbitrary and unjust sentence was the result of a law of Colorado passed by the legislature and signed by a prior governor” and needed to be revised. In the commutation letter, he said he had asked the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to provide recommendations on revising the state’s mandatory sentencing guidelines. LL